by Joe Penhall
starring Daniel Davis, Matt Letscher and Teagle F. Bougere
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Approx 2 hours.
Once again I’m magically transported to the world of live theatre through the expert production and performance of L.A. Theatre Works. L.A. Theatre Works has a huge library of performances which have been turned into audio. These plays range from the classics to modern plays and all with excellent casts. The beauty of the whole thing is that LATW takes the time to make sure the audio recording is perfect thus making the listener feel as though they are right in the middle of the audience for every performance.
This time around I listened to the modern play “Blue/Orange” by Joe Penhall. This one intrigued me after I read the synopsis from L.A. Theatre Works; “Two psychiatrists—one new and inexperienced, the other his well-established mentor—battle over the diagnosis and treatment of Chris, a young black man who claims to be the son of African dictator Idi Amin.” I’m not sure what it was but it just sounded like it would be pretty thought-provoking, and it was.
A young black man is about to be discharged from psychiatric supervision in a London hospital. His man doctor wants to keep him in for further observation due to some of his responses, for example a bowl of oranges sits on the table, and when asked what color the patient replies, “Blue.” Something is just not right, the patient also claims to be the son of Idi Amin, remember him from the 70s? He’s the dictator that ate his enemies. The problem is that the Doctor’s supervisor, sees all of the patient’s responses as merely products of his culture and that not everything is to be taken literally. The supervisor also sees in this a chance for another paper to be written to further his own career. With his clinicians disagreeing on the seriousness of his condition, his release becomes complicated by issues of race, class, and the definition of sanity itself.
The play does a great job focusing on the complex issues of psychiatric treatment and throw into that the mix that the two white doctors are clueless when it comes to the black culture, it makes for a very intriguing story which goes back and forth as to who is really sane. The play does have some humorous moments which help the audience to digest some of the real hard-hitting issues covered.